Disclaimer: the first part of this, uh, essay, is not exactly uplifting, but, hang tight. I will get there.
I got myself through the first several months of the pandemic’s effects on my life by searching every single day for uplifting things to focus on…just to balance out all that was going on in the world.
As a practice like that can, it worked beautifully. My spirits were up, and my slowly increasing terror was easily manageable.
But somewhere along the line, it caught up with me. As my James would say (in Mississippi-Speak), I was just “slap wore out”. Most of us were. Not just with “quarantine fatigue”, but from all the other chaos we were experiencing; a deadly virus, horrific wildfires, and racial strife.
And politics?? Don’t even get me started!
Yep, just slap wore out!
My exhaustion started showing up here in my blog. This is what I posted on September 18th:
I guess that should have been a warning…but I missed it. I had stopped practicing what I was preaching. I needed to re-establish an uplifting, daily ritual…and quick….but I didn’t, at least not right away.
With the new year about to start, I am inspired by the concept of “resolutions”, even though in the past I have been reluctant to support this ritual. I have mostly seen it fail.
There is no magic just because the calendar numbers are changing, and I am a bit concerned that some are investing unrealistic hope in the year 2021 being better than what we have all just been through. That may be dangerously disappointing.
Realistically, I don’t think there will be a return to our old “normal”…ever.
And I actually hope there isn’t because too many things in that old normal were off kilter anyway…not working, even damaging, and we should not go back to that level of apathy, complacency and blind acceptance ever again.
Our New Normal could include all the lessons we’ve learned (or should have) during our forced, altered behavior. (Remember those photos in the first few days of World Lock Down, of beautiful clear blue skies all over the world??)
But in the mean time, I’m going back to finding something beautiful, inspirational and miraculous every single day. I know that’s what my Dad did throughout his life, and he taught it to us. Toward the end, when he could not do much else, he’d sit on his front porch and watch for the wonderous among, and even camouflaged by, the mundane. He had a polaroid camera and would send me a photo now and then of a “miracle”. (A beautiful volunteer rose bush in his yard that he did not plant. An earthquake crack in the front sidewalk that had “healed” itself in another minor San Diego earthquake. And more.)
So I am determined to re-establish my own daily search for things to lift up my beleaguered spirits.
Here is one of my favorite resources! The Greater Good Magazine. A free newsletter out of Berkeley about the science of well-being. It’s worth contributing to. (You’ll have to copy and paste because I still can’t figure out how to make a link.)
One short video (30 seconds) in the latest issue ironically* brought me to tears of joy. I think it’s about the 10th one, titled Competing gubernatorial candidates try to bring voters together.
Anyway, Happy New Year. Like many other places in the world, we in the Seattle area usually bring in the New Year with a spectacular, crowd pleasing fireworks display from the Space Needle. It was wisely cancelled this year to avoid a virus super-spreader event, and was replaced by a truly amazing light show to watch from our homes! (Again you’ll have to copy and paste, but worth the 10 minutes, especially if you can see it on a bigger screen.)
Well, that’s it for today. I will keep my eyes (well, all my senses) open for more Spirit Lifters to share.
Please consider adding your own Spirit Lifters in the comments section.
I bet we could build quite a list!!
Thanks, and Happy New Year!
*irony best appreciated if you know about my ancestry…
This is the last of a four part series on lessons revisited and solidified during the pandemic.
The first 3 posts on Scarcity, Three Human Hungers and Structuring Time, are issues that for me, have definitely floated to the surface during my confinement.
And here is the fourth.
I started seriously considering the possibility of the existence of Dual Realities way back in the 1980’s. I found my Psychotherapy practice filled with those who were diagnosed as “Borderline Personality Disorder”, an unfortunate label. I mostly didn’t use the suggested DSM whatever-number-it-was back then. I didn’t want to stick my clients with a reputation that might limit them in some way. So when I got a referral called Borderline, I started switching it to Borderline Personality Organization. I also encouraged my therapy community, especially my trainees, to adopt this different perspective.
I bring this up because the clients with this “diagnosis” were most therapists’ worst nightmare. No one wanted to work with them back then, and tried to limit their practices to one Borderline at a time. No surprise. A person whose personality worked that way, could frustrate the most experienced of practitioners! A “Borderline” tended to be quick, smart, combative, testing, and successful at what they do (healthy or not). Typically, they were extremely creative…but mostly at proving their own strongly held mistaken belief that they were unlovable, and that you too, would eventually abandon them….another thing they were successful at…getting a therapist to give up on them.
I never felt that way. I absolutely loved the ingenious ways they could get all of us therapists to fight over them, to disagree about them, to “split” over them. It reminded me of me and my sisters growing up.
Talk about immersing one’s self all the way into a pre-decided reality…all or nothing, black and white, no gray. Brilliant. And a lot of therapists bought right into the reality, compelled to choose a side, or a singular definition of right or wrong.
(imagine a photo of the yin/yang thingy here)
But see, I was raised by my Dad, a brilliant, but covert, Master Teacher, who from day one, taught me that one thing, two things, even three could be completely true at the very same time.
He had three daughters and out of necessity I suppose, quietly negotiated, and mediated, and helped us see things from each others’ perspectives.
It may have been easiest for me though. Not because I was his oldest, but because, though he was my Dad, he was not my father. (He married my mother when I was two-ish.) It took me until well into adolescence to straighten out that conflicting statement.
“You’re my Dad but you’re not my dad? Huh??”
I had lived the proof throughout childhood, that two seemingly opposing things could both be true. I had enough experience with it in other parts of my life, that when I started getting calls from frantic therapists, throwing up their hands wanting to refer a Borderline (remember, labeled with affection by me), that’s what I set out to teach my new clients…exactly what my Dad had taught me…
“You’re Mother left you. AND Your Mother loved you.”
The real anchoring for me of the concept of Dual Realities came right after 9-11-2001.
Immediately following the attacks, in my search for understanding I stumbled across a PBS Special. The program was interviewing religious leaders, teachers and philosophers from all over the world who, in my opinion, were valiantly trying to prevent the next world war…trying to get us to consider the event from other perspectives.
One of my very first Blog posts was about this experience. https://chosenperspectives.com/2015/11/19/absolutely-nothing-is-absolute/
Anyway, what grew for me out of those experiences was an idea…my version of a primary theory, like my mentor’s all-encompassing idea about Scarcity forty years ago.
What if there really is only one single task for every human being to accomplish during their time on the planet? I now believe there is.
We need to learn how to be separate and connected at the very same time.
Talk about conflicting states, or dual realities! How can both of those be true simultaneously?
This is not new. We have each been dealing with this exact issue since our very conception. Think about it…even as we were growing our separate little bodies inside our mother’s womb, we cannot, and will not, ever be any more connected to another human being than that!
It may also be the oldest existential discussion of all. We are whole entities, completely unique, and separate from all others. No one can ever fully be in our shoes, and on our death beds, we will all take that final breath completely alone.
But at the same time, we are completely connected to everyone else. (Hey, all those people at Woodstock would tell you they were ONE with each other!)
We are certainly connected as a species, and some would say we are linked, attached, and related to ALL living things on the planet.
Well, as if we needed a reminder of these facts, in case we needed to learn this lesson experientially, along comes Covid 19, throwing us all into the ongoing, daily circumstance of being separate and connected at the same time.
We have had to literally separate ourselves, to socially distance, to hunker down and isolate in order to slow down or stop this virus.
But what is also true is that we are all in this together, finding creative methods for proving and anchoring our connections, all while frantically searching for the way to save our entire species.
In every single moment of our lives, based on our individual and collective stories, we are choosing a perspective, a way of seeing, defining or experiencing the world.
I never thought I would be quoting one of Mr. Trump’s staff, but his Dr. Birx said the following, actually as I was writing this:
“We need to protect each other at the same time we’re voicing our discontent,”
And an even more surprising resource for me to share is about the video made by former President Bush:
In a three-minute video shared on Twitter on Saturday, Bush urged Americans to remember “how small our differences are in the face of this shared threat.”
“In the final analysis, we are not partisan combatants. We are human beings, equally vulnerable and equally wonderful in the sight of god,” Bush said. “We rise or fall together, and we are determined to rise.”
What the virus is teaching us, shoving in our faces really, is that we have to find a perspective that includes both being separate and connected at the very same time….
And we have to find it soon.
As always, I’d love comments. Helps me feel connected even if you disagree with me…
I loved this little video (experiment). I saw it in a newsletter I get from Greater Good Science center. Pretty uplifting stuff. So grateful there are organizations like this!
Hope you view it. Let me (or them) know what you think…
Over the Holidays, I started binge-watching West Wing on Netflix…well, to be honest, I should say RE-binge watching. I actually own the fancy boxed set so have seen every episode many, many times…just not for a while. (We currently don’t have a single DVD player in the whole house.)
I started it again in early December as a distraction from some personal drama, but I quickly realized how much I have needed this kind of political antithesis for quite a while now.
Trump Escapades Inundation should be a category in the DSM-5 under the PTSD diagnosis heading…
My only real connection to POTUS is that I truly empathize with his hair issues, my own having thinned dramatically enough that I have to experiment with all manner of the “comb-over”.
Watching the brilliant portrayal of how life in the West Wing, and in our country, could and should be has been just as inspirational this time through as all the others.
I am a die-hard Aaron Sorkin fan and have absolutely loved everything he’s done; all the movies, and TV shows, especially Sports Night, the Newsroom, and the way too short Studio 60. We need a ton of sentimentality and idealism these days just to counteract some of the other stuff that’s happening. And Sorkin is the master!
The last episode I watched had the following quote in it.
“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral. Returning violence with violence only multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of start.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
And then I remembered a couple of days ago I saw the episode where Aimee Mann singing James Taylor’s wonderful song, “Shed a Little Light”.
So in honor of MLK day, and to do my part, for just a few moments, to distract from all the…well, you know, I found 3 versions of this beautiful song.
The first, just the song so you can concentrate on the lyrics (printed right below).
And last, another wonderful, uplifting version by James and friends.
If you can sit through all three versions, you’ll be singing right along by the end, and maybe even a little inspired to Keep on Trucking no matter what unbelievable thing you-know-who does tomorrow.
“Shed A Little Light”
There is a feeling like the clenching of a fist
There is a hunger in the center of the chest
There is a passage through the darkness and the mist
And though the body sleeps the heart will never rest
Shed a little light, oh Lord, so that we can see, just a little light, oh Lord.
Wanna stand it on up, stand it on up, oh Lord,
wanna walk it on down, shed a little light, oh Lord.
Can’t get no light from the dollar bill, don’t give me no light from a TV screen.
When I open my eyes I wanna drink my fill from the well on the hill,
do you know what I mean?
Shed a little light, oh Lord, so that we can see, just a little light, oh Lord.
Wanna stand it on up, stand it on up, oh Lord,
wanna walk it on down, shed a little light, oh Lord.
There is a feeling like the clenching of a fist, there is a hunger in the center of the chest.
There is a passage through the darkness and the mist
and though the body sleeps the heart will never rest.
Oh, Let us turn our thoughts today to Martin Luther King
and recognize that there are ties between us.
3rd version, sing along. I dare you!
Thank you Dr. King, for being one of my most important teachers…
I have done a photo post on Street Art,
and on Street Anemones,
So why not Street Jewelry?
The idea started when I heard a story on NPR about walking around Seattle and how much there really is to see if you pay close attention.
I pride myself in noticing beauty in the most ordinary and familiar of scenes, a treasured lesson from my father. But after the NPR interview, on my regular walking route, I discovered visual treats even I had never noticed!
At a certain time of the morning, once the sun has risen enough to spotlight certain things, one can find a delightful array of sparkling access points to an underground world not thought about. How had I never looked down and noticed all this before??
It looked like jewels, mostly stately old broaches, shining up from the old asphalt.
I went home and looked up “jewelry” and found this.
“ornamental pieces (such as rings, necklaces, earrings, and bracelets) that are made of materials which may or may not be precious (such as gold, silver, glass, and plastic), are often set with genuine or imitation gems, and are worn for personal adornment” https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/jewellery
So I started photographing Street Jewelry.
This is all just on my street (a dead end about the equivalent of 3 city blocks).
PS OH, and check THIS out!!! I decided to turn the corner at the top of my quiet lane and walk a little ways on the more main thoroughfare. Look at the lovelies I found, right under my feet!!
I absolutely LOVE how many countries are represented!
Now if I can just find the right “Challenge” so I can share this with even more readers.
I have shared this photo so many times, for so many topics, but I really love it.
I think I even posted it once for the topic of “bokeh”, and STILL had not discovered the Bald Eagle photo-bombing my apple blossoms picture. It took a comment from a follower for me to see my own unexpected capture.
I think it might be one of my best, but totally by accident.
I might need some new material…
This discovery has continued to teach me…about paying attention, looking closely, seeing things from different perspectives, guardians watching over us, and Spirit Animals.
The Eagle is a symbol in many cultures of freedom, vision, and enlightenment….
Actually, they are identical…the only difference is AGE!!!!
How’s that for an existential moment?
PS Eventually that plastic wrap did dissolve. Kudos to my city for their environmental consciousness…
UH oh, uh oh, too big, TOO BIG!!!
My mind reels at the thought of picking one thing my Dad said that influences me! I could write a whole book about his subtle , even covert teachings.
Oh wait. I DID!
I have 52, still to be edited, chapters (short stories really) about something my Dad said or did that is still with me today. For the purpose of this challenge I will start with this.
When I was growing up, and there was conflict with my sisters, we of course would try to get Dad to solve it for us (which really meant “take sides”).
He would quietly listen to tales of woe and blame…and then, as if he had just thought of it and never ever said it before, he would say “Hmmm, Well, that’s one way to look at it…”
Period. That’s all. No solutions. No votes for one side or the other. Nothing. The implacable silence following his casual-seeming comment, I interpreted as lack of love clear into my adulthood.
But now, that sentiment is interwoven throughout my experiences, my calling.
Those words from him have fueled and inspired my stance in life. I am on a mission to teach and model for others, that we each have options about how we view things. And that it’s not just a choice, but a responsibility, to see things, especially in a conflict, from as many perspectives as we can confirm or imagine.
Thus Chosen Perspectives.
Here’s one of the Chapters (stories) I mentioned above. I feel very vulnerable sharing it so would appreciate any comments you are willing to make. You don’t have to like the story. Any kind of feedback is valuable. I would like to know if you read it. I’d so appreciate your “perspective”.
The “Ruler” and the Torn Screen or One Square foot
“To this garden we were given
And always took for granted
It’s like my Daddy told me, ‘You just bloom where you’re planted’
We long to be delivered from this world of pain and strife.
That’s a sorry substitution for a spiritual life.” Don Henley- “Inside Job”
“Give a child an inch and he’ll think he’s a ruler.” Sam Levenson
When I was newly eleven years old, I decided to sneak out one night to meet my two of my friends. To achieve this daring escape, I had to tear the screen on my bedroom window.
Oh, I had my adventure alright. My fellow delinquents and I caroused a whole square block in quiet little Pacific Beach. We were MIA for a couple of hours, doing the classic deviant things of our generation…for Girl Scouts anyway. We stole pomegranates from a tree whose branches hung way out into the alley making them public property, right? And we creeped into one grouchy neighbor’s back yard to see baby bunnies in a homemade cage. This guy refused to let us see these precious fluff balls during the day time, matters into our own hands and all….
Almost sunrise, I came home triumphant but exhausted and forgot all about repairing the damage to the screen…..not that I could have fixed it anyway.
Of course, I was caught. My mother discovered it that same morning and boy, was she was pissed. I hadn’t thought to close my curtains to hide what she later called my “willful and thoughtless destruction of property”. When she found it, she didn’t say a word but I knew I was busted by how she glared at me. She was a silent seether.
Then, my Mom woke my Dad, only a couple of hours into his post graveyard-shift slumber. She insisted that he deliver my punishment…a spanking…unheard of in our household, and at eleven years old….I thought “Give me a break. Never gonna happen”.
But my extremely shy and pacifist father was apparently more invested in pleasing my mother than I had realized. Her explicit direction to him was to spank me for the torn screen. The sneaking out in the middle of the night part was completely ignored, a fact that bothered me for years.
I will never forget the look on my father’s face as he slowly entered my room and closed my door. He looked chagrined but also resigned. I was shocked that he was actually considering carrying out this task set upon him by his wife….completely out of character for him.
My Dad had never touched me in anger or punishment or, for that matter, even in love. We addressed this last much later. When I was in my forties, my sisters and I finally taught him how to hug us. It was visibly painful at first, but it finally grew on him.
But when I was eleven, he sat down on the very edge of my bed and then mumbled something about bending over his knee, the whole thing so surreal to me that I complied without question or reaction.
His swing was simultaneously swift but also slowed by some imaginary obstacle, like slapping his hand through a two foot thick barrier of Jell-O. From my vulnerable position, the approach of his hand made the expected whoosh through the air, but contact with my waiting butt never happened. He tried twice but could not quite muster the actual blow.
Then he startled me by smacking my bed, twice, and loudly. I was absolutely surprised but definitely not injured.
When I stood up and we were face to face, he didn’t speak a word but in a rare moment of slightly prolonged and very direct eye contact (seriously…my Dad was shy) he conveyed to me ‘Please don’t tell your mother”. I read his look loud and clear…..and played my silently assigned part to the hilt. I cried real (but exaggerated) tears for quite a while, making sure my mother saw and heard me. I was furious with her but I don’t think I had never felt so loved by my Dad.
One of my childhood friends was named Mary Lou Reichel. She lived two doors down and sometimes I was invited to go on adventures with her family. They had a big motor boat and I went Marlin fishing with them. They did so many things, even attending church….all together. They were Catholic. Mary Lou and her big brother even went to the parochial school. Mr. Reichel was very strict and the mom very quiet and religious. I loved their family. They were so different from my own and I longed for my parents to assume their proper stereotypical positions like Mr. and Mrs. Reichel.
I remember so clearly a reaction Mary Lou had to my Dad one sunny Sunday afternoon.
We were hanging out in my front yard while Dad worked on the car. I was complaining to him about how bored I was and why couldn’t he take us for ice cream or to the beach or…whine, whine, whine. He just looked at me, a familiar look so I knew what was coming next. But Mary Lou froze and held her breath. It was as if she knew the very words my Dad would say next, and she was exactly right. With a faintly apologetic sigh, he said, “Go get the ruler.”
Mary Lou’s reaction puzzled me. Her eyes widened, panic on my behalf all over her face, and her shoulders went up to her ears. “Go get the ruler” meant something so different to her and I know now she had regularly been on the receiving end of a Ruler Whap…on her knuckles from the nuns at her school and her father had broken several yard sticks over her bare bottom. Later that afternoon, she actually cried and whispered to me, as if her father two doors down might hear, how she wished her Dad was as nice as mine. Grass is always greener, huh?
I had envied her father taking her to church all the time. The sum total of religious teaching I received from mine was this.
“Boredom is a sin.”
So when my Dad, a consummate and camouflaged spiritual teacher, said “Go get the ruler”, here’s what he meant.
Take the ruler and some chalk or a pencil and mark off one square foot of surface…on anything….the car, the wall, the grass, and my personal favorite, the sidewalk in front of our house.
Then, he told me to stare at it until I found something miraculous. That’s it.
Do you have any idea how much life there is in one square foot of Southern California lawn? Weeds, pill bugs, itty bitty daisy-like flowers, rocks, the marble I lost last summer, caterpillars, and always, about one thousand ants. And I was convinced the sidewalk was filled with flecks of pure gold. (I bet this is why I so enjoy Macro Photography!!!
It would occupy my sisters and me for hours. We were inspired to start collections. It gave us stimulating stories to tell and write. We built complete little towns with the gathered natural debris from neighboring square foots….and this was just from the grass. The lathe and plaster walls in our house held scenes filled with animal shapes. Our brown shag carpet was jam-packed with faces. The sidewalk became a canvas for colored chalk. One time I used a square foot of beach towel and a magnifying glass to get a good look at what terry cloth really is. (That was the same time I learn about the fire starting power of a magnifier!)
It took me many years to choose between Mary Lou’s perspective and mine about my father. I had seen my Dad as distant and cold, not really caring that much about me… not that he was mean. I always did the things he suggested; “Close your eyes and count five sounds”, “Name five smells in the air right now”, “Where did all those tadpoles go?” “What happened to the Polliwogs we saw just last week?” And “Why is our favorite pond now filled with tiny frogs?”
And I enjoyed the adventurous outings he would provide. The bustle and commotion in a single square foot of tide pool is truly amazing.
Just five blocks from our house they were excavating deep into a hillside in preparation for a new subdivision of homes. My Dad knew this would be a once in a life time opportunity so he packed up the tool box and took us there on the weekends when all the big machinery was silent. Our tools were our beach buckets, some old paint brushes, the fancy grapefruit spoons (“Don’t tell your mother”), and of course, the ruler. I still have beautiful and amazing fossils from those expeditions.
When I was young, I thought my father was just weird, but now, I see him through Mary Lou’s longing eyes. He was a gentle, loving, unassuming and brilliant Master Parent and Spiritual Guide. Completely out of our awareness, he was training us to be biologists, artists, ecologists, archaeologists, maybe even Buddhists.
As I look back now, I can only imagine what that “spanking” over the torn screen must have cost him.